About a week and a half ago I returned home completely spent from a weekend at the Wanderlust Festival on Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia. Wanderlust Festivals are billed as “all-out celebrations of mindful living.” Sounds pretty awesome, right? Anything that claims to be ‘all-out’ appeals to me. I should stop here though: I was only considering the festival at all because a couple of dear friends, who happen to own/operate a culinary masterpiece of a food truck (the two can jive) had signed up for the gig themselves and they had tickets to spare. I am however, 44 years old with 4 kids. Still, the pull was pretty strong. The second line of the Wanderlust press blitz reads: “Join a remarkable group of yoga and meditation instructors, musicians, speakers, chefs and attendees for a transformational experience at the world’s most beautiful mountain resorts. Explore new ideas, make new friends, discover new abilities, and dance your heart out. Adventure awaits.” What the fuck. Who gets to put that many powerful words in two sentences? Let’s break it down with a list: remarkable, yoga, meditation, musicians, chefs, transformational, world’s, beautiful, mountain, explore, new, new, new, abilities, dance, adventure. How many words did I leave out there? Not many! Whoever wrote that sucked me in, and I imagine those two sentences have grabbed the attention of many of the other thousands upon thousands of Wanderlust attendees over the years. My favorite is the short phrase which actually crosses the line of being certifiable: dance your heart out. Out? Dance it out. The rest could all be claimed as being true, but this? These festival makers clearly have balls. I chose my moment very carefully. I kicked the kids out the front door, handed my husband a beer in a cold glass (he was probably instantly suspicious), and casually leaned against the kitchen counter. “Hey, Adam and Sarah wrote today. They have extra tickets to the Wanderlust Festival in West Virginia. I think we should go.” Mike almost spit out his icy cold beer. Nope. The thing is, I actually knew that this was the right answer: our schedule is already too packed, he is in the middle of building a new restaurant and working on something new and time-sucking on the side, it is summertime on a farm which means the work is enough to drown all but families with eight kids to mow and weed and feed animals and clean up the ugly of winter and the wet of spring, I had an aerial yoga teacher training the following weekend and we had just been to a wedding the week before. He was right. I knew it. I dropped it. Kinda. Those two sentences were still lingering in my head. I tried to drop it, I really did. I have this friend, you see. She will do anything. She has three kids and a husband and a business of her own and a too-full schedule like the rest of us. I asked her anyway. Casually. There wasn’t a whole lot of hesitation. “What is it?” she asked. I threw out a few words from the afore mentioned two sentences. That night, late night, my phone began to light up with a steady stream of text messages. I think she may have actually begun packing. Now I had to tell my steady that I was going with a friend and her three kids. Another cold beer. This time he just shook his head. He didn’t say no. It was something more like, “I’m washing my hands of this. You’re insane.” The two of us, seven kids now, and we were going to camp. Our food truck friends would get there early, grab us the best of the camping spots, Sheri would arrive with her kids the moment the gates opened, I would follow after teaching my morning class, arrive in time to set up camp and we would do all of those things: discover and explore and adventure and yoga and music. A couple of days before the trip I went over to Sheri’s house to practice setting up the 10 person tent while the kids swam in her pond. Sitting on the dock we asked each other about the weather. Neither of us had really checked. So we checked. Rain. The entire time. Lots of rain. 90%. We easily talked ourselves right back into it, set up the tent, took it down and laughed it off. We could always get a room. We wanted all of those powerful words, including adventure, and haha~ we just might get more than we bargained for. Lucky us.
Two days later I pulled my pick-up to the top of Snowshoe Mountain in the driving rain. Rain so hard and so fast I was moving at a crawl. I did a little asking around and the festival folks kept pointing down the mountain for the camping. I wanted details: Was someone down there? How do I get there? You know, the basics. Fingers just kept pointing down the mountain. I pulled over and instantly Sheri pulled in behind me. She was drenched to the bone. “We can’t do this, she said.” It isn’t camping; it’s a slope at the bottom of the mountain that they have just barely mowed. It isn’t fit for camping or for kids.” She was pissed. It wasn’t anything like the beautiful photos we had seen on the marketing materials. We were also in the middle of a true downpour. Rain was singing down the mountain like a lively stream. She had already asked around about finding us a room but those rooms that were left were astronomically expensive. Neither of us wanted that. We stood dripping in the lobby of one hotel as the Wanderlust video played over and over on the big screen; beautiful images with beautiful people looking to the heavens, tree pose with arms reaching for the sunny sky, a woman holding Anjali mudra with wrists wrapped in beads, SUP inversions and slackliners looking serene. The irony was incredible. My kids were still holding fast though. “We can do it mom, that’s why we brought a tent.” We drove the three winding miles to the bottom of the mountain and immediately found our soaking wet foodie friends. They were also skeptical, but set. They would camp. On the trip down the mountain, my sweet child, he who is always thinking of others, asked if Sheri was okay. I told him I thought so. I explained that she had already been in this downpour for hours, had no way of setting up a ten person tent with a 4,6, and 8 year old. She was cold and wet. She had been waiting for us and we were late. “I want her to stay,” he said. “We can do this.” “Tell her that then,” I said. As our ever expanding tribe (there were now 11 of us including Adam and Sarah) sloshed to the campground, Vincy spoke with Sheri. She would later say that Vincy’s 10 year old pep talk was a deciding factor. Sheri was absolutely right though. This was not a campground. There was almost no flat ground at all, the area had been mowed with a brush-hog on a very high setting, it looked absolutely nothing like the beautiful camping scenes we had been dreamingly admiring in the exquisite Wanderlust videos. We decided to stay. We lay tarps on the ground, used the food truck Easy-ups on top of our tents as an extra protective layer and made a “porch” with extra tarps and sticks. It looked good. The rain died down a bit, and Adam passed out luke-warm Budweiser beers, but mostly we just fell asleep damp and exhausted.
Sheri woke early, climbed the mountain, and came back to camp refreshed while the rest of us rolled out of our sleeping bags to a beautiful day. We made our way to the lake, to the top of the mountain (Starbucks), to the real bathrooms, to adventure. Here we were. The kids were no worse for wear. Sarah and Adam took off for the top of the mountain to work, and Sheri and I had carefully planned our yoga-class-taking schedules to mesh so that while one of us was in class, the other was with the kids. Sheri left early for a Sun A breakdown class while I took the kids to the lake. The lake was closed until 10:00 they told us. What the fuck? How can you close a lake? “No lifeguard” was the answer. There were huge inflatables in the lake for the kids and all seven of them were frothing at the bit. Keeping seven kids out of a mountain lake with inflatables and paddle boats is like trying to keep pigs out of a food trough. I talked them into going back for their fishing poles to ease the pain. Ian instantly hooked the largest of the inflatables with a fishing hook. My head almost came off. This child of mine pulls shit like this all the time. He can’t even begin to imagine how it happened, he was just trying to fish, it was in his way, they shouldn’t put it there… I could just imagine the inflatable slowly sighing itself of air and floating sad and empty on the lake with my kids and I the culprits, still hooked to it from the dock. Mia had her thumb and first fingers hooked together, her eyes squeezed tight, her faced tipped to the heavens and she was belting out long and languid “Om’s” which is what my kids do to make fun of me when it looks like I might lose my shit. Annie was nervously laughing, but I could see her glancing sideways. Vincy (thank heavens for Vincy) finally removed the hook from the inflatable without puncturing it, and I worked hard to get my zen back. Sheri returned to the lake blissed out on Sun Salutations and I made my way to my first class, an SUP yoga class on the lake.
The day continued to stay beautiful and Sheri took her turn, and I followed with my final class of the day, a “Shanti Sweat” class with Colleen Saidman Yee and Rodney Yee. This was the class I was most excited for, and I slipped into the back row and it all came together. This was why I was here. It was a perfect class. The teaching was heavenly, the assists were amazing, for the first time in two days I was linking breath with delicious movement, I was sweating it out, I was in a class with a woman I had long admired, I was on the top of the mountain taking yoga while my kids were swimming in a lake with a wonderful friend. That was the last yoga class I would take. It was worth it. I should say that now. I went to Wanderlust and took two classes, one that was kinda meh, and one that blew me away. Meanwhile, Ian had stood in line for food from our friend’s Umami Bites truck and when Sarah caught his eye, she told him to come in and get to work. He spent about five hours taking orders and money as the line for sweet rice bowls, spring rolls with peanut sauce and pork belly tacos continued to grow. He now wants to run away and join the circus of Adam and Sarah and the food truck/festival world. We fed the kids some dinner and Sheri put her kids easily to bed. I took my slightly older children to the top of the mountain via ski lift to eat and listen to music. It is a night with my kids I hope I never forget. Unwilling to purchase a “ticket” to hear the band inside the fence, we lay on the grass just beyond the gates and listened to the sweet sounds of bluegrass music as we looked into the valley below. Adam and Sarah kept bringing us food (and beer in a cozy, bad yogi) and I did feel all of those things I had been promised: remarkable, yoga, meditation, musicians, chefs, transformational, world’s, beautiful, mountain, explore, new, new, new, abilities, dance, adventure. I wasn’t exactly dancing my heart out, but it was pretty damn full. I took a moment to have the “I have amazing children” thought, the “I’m pretty damn lucky” thought, the “camping in the rain at the bottom of the mountain is NOT less than staying in a ritzy room at the top of the mountain” thought, the “I don’t need to be in a yoga class with a famous instructor to be here and enjoy the yoga of Wanderlust itself” thought, the “I have amazing friends who do amazing things” thought. We eventually made our way back down the mountain where Sheri was relaxing outside the tent with her journal and having the very same thoughts. Ian got out his guitar and practiced some bluegrass chords he had learned from a musician who was camping beside us. We talked a little about Sheri’s journal entry: Grow where you are planted. It was a good discussion to have with friends and family. We went to bed and Sheri and I lay there for a long while listening to our fellow campers at a communal fire singing and shouting and maybe even dancing their hearts out. I hoped my boys at least heard a little of it too. I want them to know the world is wide. As the night wore on the alcohol began to speak and I was fiercely praying that they were sound asleep with ears shut tight.
The following morning the rain threatened to come back. It promised to be much, much worse with lightning and thunder and flash floods in the forecast. Sheri decided to head for home, and I decided to spend the day and decide later. My boys had their hearts set on renting mountain bikes. We could see the intense trails snaking beneath us as we rode the ski lift up and down the mountainside. The boys suited up in full gear and I left them with a bright eyed, insanely fit, fiercely fun, 20 something who promised to take care of them. He did. I only saw them in passing, flying by the lake on their bikes and shouting exuberant hellos as they went round and round the mountain for hours. The girls swam in the lake and I did some yoga on the dock. It was easy to slither into the water to cool off, to say hello to my girls and then climb up again to dry in the sun.
This went on for hours and I was happy we had chosen to stay. Late in the afternoon, the clouds began to roll in and I could hear the rumbling thunder in the distance. A flash of lightning meant they pulled us all from the lake and closed the ski lift. I started to worry about the boys, but they instantly appeared on bikes. I shouted to them to get on the last round of the lift, I would meet them at the top of the mountain. The rain poured down. We threw every sopping thing we owned into the back of the truck, strapped it down, and took off. Again the rain was so fierce we were slowed to a crawl. I drove for hours with no cell service, no map, in what I hoped was the right direction home. I eventually reached my husband at a break in the trees and a break in the rain at the top of a beautiful mountain somewhere. We sat for a moment looking into the valley below. Ian asked me to take a photo for his IG account, I took a photo of my kids I will always cherish, and Mike booked us a room in Parkersburg for the night.
In pouring rain, we left everything in the truck, crashed into two beds, ordered in pizza, took a hot shower and turned on the TV. I called Sheri. She was happily tucked with her kids at a family cabin somewhere in the West Virginia mountains. We had done it. We hadn’t really done yoga per se. But we had done “it”. We had taken our kids on an adventure, we had lived fully. When it rained, we were in it. When the clouds broke and the sun emerged it felt even better than it would have if we had merely opened the curtains of a hotel room to peer outside. We made new friends and sealed our friendships with those we travelled with. We each had room to be ourselves: her son Colton had found time to read his beloved books, Vincy put himself in charge of repairs and maintenance and organization of camping and fishing, our three girls had found time to do art, Ian learned new music on his guitar and spent blissful time alone in a kayak on the lake, little Pierce had plenty of people to wrestle and play with. Sheri and I had each found our time as well, she rose early to run and hike the mountain, I found time for a few minutes of vinyasa practice at a time. We agreed that our Wanderlust experience probably wasn’t that typical- there isn’t a single photo from the trip with Sheri or I in yoga clothes or in yoga poses. Afterward, social media was packed with yoga selfies and yogi friends with wide smiles and perfect poses. I’m not above this, believe me, I post photos on my IG account all the time that make my life and my practice look better than they are. My photos from this trip are equally beautiful though~ soggy, muddy images of friendship, happy children, adventure, proof positive that in some ways we were dancing our hearts out. I have a friend I would do anything with and anything for. They are wanderlust photos; photos of “a very strong desire or impulse to wander and explore the world”. This is the true definition of wanderlust, and the single sentence I would use to define our trip. Adventure awaits.